Highlights from a semester of community engagement by Elon student-athletes

Elon student-athletes participated in more than 1,000 hours of service in our community this fall with partners such as the Alamance Burlington School System, Elon’s GET (Girls to Empowered Teens) program and Christmas Cheer.

Elon student-athletes have participated in more than 1,000 hours of service in our community this fall as part of the third year of an NCAA grant-funded initiative to increase student-athlete participation in the Elon Experiences that includes community engagement. Below are some of the service highlights from this semester featuring Alamance Burlington Schools, Elon’s GET (Girls to Empowered Teens) program and Christmas Cheer.

Hometown Team Football Pumpkin Comes to Life 

Mr. Edge’s class entry for the pumpkin decorating contest

Nicole Bergen, program assistant for the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement, serves in Mr. Edge’s second-grade class at Elon Elementary through the Elon Employee Volunteer Program. She shared a photo (to the left) that she took one day after reading to his class. As their entry in the school’s pumpkin decorating contest, they painted their pumpkin as an Elon football player (#30 representing 2030, the year they could begin their college careers at Elon). Sarah Williams, assistant director for the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement, saw a great opportunity to connect Elon football players with Mr. Edge’s class, especially the pumpkin’s real-life counterpart on the team, linebacker Will Archer, who wears No. 30 for the Phoenix.

Archer, whose Elon football jersey bears the No. 30, reading to the class

Despite full schedules and being in-season, several football players including Archer, were able to serve by reading to Mr. Edge’s class. Archer connected with the second-graders and added his own twist by bringing his favorite childhood book and a huge bag of lollipops to share.

“Reading to the 2nd graders at Elon Elementary was a lot of fun for us,” Archer said. “It is an honor to be considered a role model for these kids.”

One of the students shared this comment following the visit: : “George was brilliant because he asked me questions,” said 7-year-old Greyson.

GET (Girls to Empowered Teens) Program Teaches Fitness and Health

GET, which is led Lecturer in Exercise Science Liz Bailey, offers health education, mentorship and sports skills to local girls through the help of Elon women serving as mentors. The women’s track and field team have served with this program for years. This fall, the team helped lead small group discussions on health education, sharing their own stories and encouraging the girls to share theirs.

“The women on the track team really model a team spirit and women supporting women, which I think girls in middle school can really benefit from observing,” Bailey said, adding that they “connect to the middle school girls in an important way. “

Record-Setting Christmas Cheer 

Kennedy Little (Women’s Soccer, ’20) and Christian VanSickle (Football, ’21) pictured

For more than five years, Elon University Athletics has partnered with Christmas Cheer, a nonprofit organization that provides Christmas assistance in the form of gifts, food, and warm clothes to families struggling financially, to sponsor local children. This year, student-athletes wanted to push the envelope on how many children they could sponsor, championed by Elon’s men’s and women’s soccer teams. They launched a social media campaign to garner donations from fellow students, friends and family. These Elon student-athletes shattered previous records, sponsoring more than 20 children and raising over $3,500 to support families this year.

Student-athlete involvement in the community this fall is part of a larger joint effort by Elon University Athletics and the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement.

Andrew Stafford, student services and Elon Experiences coordinator for Elon Athletics, and Sarah Williams are managing part of an NCAA grant that involves increasing student-athlete involvement in service, providing education around social issues and community engagement, and expanding involvement in the Service Experiential Learning Requirement (ELR). Student-athletes wishing to volunteer in the local community or learn more about the Service ELR can reach out to Andrew Stafford.